This week, the world’s countries are coming together at UN headquarters in New York to affirm the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will guide global development efforts through 2030. While the SDGs have had plenty of active involvement and support from the World Bank Group and our multilateral counterparts, the countries themselves have set this agenda.
The agenda is both ambitious — more than doubling the eight Millennium Development Goals that will officially expire at the end of 2015 — and more comprehensive. For example, where the first MDG set out to “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger,” its successor SDGs take on these challenges in their entirety: “End poverty in all its forms everywhere” (Goal 1) and “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” (Goal 2). And in a world whose “emerging markets” now include larger economies than many members of the European Union, countries have chosen to make these goals universal, equally applicable to the globe’s richer and poorer nations.
SDGs and Beyond
Tomorrow morning, Pope Francis will kick off the UN General Assembly’s session on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and by the end of the day, the world’s leaders will have affirmed the 17 goals. This is a momentous occasion, worth celebrating, but the hard work begins Monday morning. That’s when the focus shifts from what to how.
The first 16 goals cover a range of critical development needs, expanding on the Millennium Development Goals that have guided development efforts since 2000. The final SDG is qualitatively different. Rather than expound on what we want to achieve, it addresses how we will achieve the goals. It focuses on the means of implementation.
Juancito is from a small town in rural Peru. He wakes up every day at 5 a.m. to walk two hours to get to school. One day, he fell and twisted his ankle, but because the nearest health clinic is three hours away, his teacher had to fill in as a health care provider.
Juancito’s story provided the inspiration for the third-place winning team of the first Ideas for Action Competition, sponsored by the World Bank Group and the Wharton Business School. The team noted that the local government — which receives royalties from a mining company — didn’t lack the funds needed for development, but community needs were being overlooked.
I work in one of the most rewarding fields imaginable – helping low- and middle-income countries develop so that poor people have a fair chance at reaching their full potential. My field of work is at a critical crossroads, and it is no exaggeration that the decisions we make this year will have an impact on everyone in the world and especially the poorest.
What a remarkable and busy six weeks!
There has been a tremendous re-energizing globally to explore and identify ways to finance the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The international recognition that the SDGs need to go even further than the previous Millennium Development Goals has prompted discussion of how to get from billions to trillions of dollars to achieve sustainable and inclusive development.
In September 2000, world leaders committed to the Millennium Development Goals.
Until then, few dared to imagine goals such as eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, universalizing access to education or reducing maternal mortality would be possible. Now, with 500 days left before the end of 2015, the MDGs are less a leap of imagination and more of a challenge that many leaders feel is within reach.